MUNTINLUPA CITY (April 8, 2020)—The National Task Force (NTF) against COVID-19 continues to closely monitor the status of COVID-19 referral hospitals, testing centers and quarantine facilities in Metro Manila in the heels of the President Rodrigo Duterte’s order to extend the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine.

NTF against COVID-19 Chief Implementer Carlito G. Galvez, Jr. visited yesterday (April 7) the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) in Alabang and the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan, facilities which will be instrumental in the government’s battle against the COVID-19 disease.

At the RITM, Galvez met with the agency’s officials and personnel to assess their needs and give assurance that the government is behind them.

Among the key concerns raised by the RITM personnel are the proper storage of COVID-19 testing kits, as well as lack of adequate manpower and limited logistical capability.

“We will find a solution to the storage problem. Let us tap the private sector. For the additional manpower, let’s do it under emergency hiring,” Galvez said.

RITM is looking to process about 10,000 COVID-19 tests a day for the next three months, as it prepares to distribute 900,000 test kits to accredited testing facilities nationwide.

“Focus on testing and we’ll take care of the logistics,” Galvez told administrators of the facility, adding, “We will help you fulfill your requirements. Tell us what you need and we will help you.”

The Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) recently announced it will disburse PhP 447 million to 81 public hospitals across the country, with RITM set to receive PhP 50 million.

“The RITM is very important. With our strategy to detect, isolate and treat [the disease]. You are an important part of the sequence. If we can provide a good strategy to the people, then we’re good. You are part of the systemic core,” Galvez said.

Sanctuary in the north

As the Department of Health (DOH) ramps up its mass testing of persons under investigation (PUIs) and persons under monitoring (PUM), the NTF is making sure that quarantine facilities designed to decongest hospitals are fully equipped and ready to receive patients.

Galvez, along with Defense Secretary and NTF chair Delfin Lorenzana, Presidential Adviser on Flagship Projects and Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) President and CEO Vince Dizon, and Department of Health Director for Health Emergency Management Bureau, Dr. Gloria Balboa, led the inspection of the sprawling quarantine facility in THE Philippine Arena.

The team inspected three tents, some of which are already equipped with beds, mattresses, and refrigerators. The tents can collectively house around 300 COVID-19 positive patients, who are asymptomatic, or have mild or moderate symptoms.

Dizon said it can later be expanded to cater to up to 2,000 patients.

According to Galvez, the Philippine Arena will be capable of serving patients coming from Quezon City, Caloocan, Malabon, Navotas, Valenzuela, and Bulacan.

Regarding the concern of how to ensure sanitation of the facility, Dizon referred to existing models of other quarantine facilities that are currently being set up.

“Yung sa CRs, kagaya ng ginagawa natin sa PICC (Philippine International Convention Center) saka sa WTC (World Trade Center), meron tayong mga CRs na ginawa na ng DPWH (Department of Public Works and Highways) saka mga modular na showers. Mga container van ito na converted into showers and toilets. So ganun din ang gagawin natin dito,” Dizon said.

Before the facility starts accepting COVID-19 patients, the structure of the tents need to be slightly modified due to safety reasons, Galvez added.

“Dahil yung requirement ng DOH ang sinusunod natin, most probably ‘yung model natin sa Rizal Memorial ang gagamitin natin, so papalitan natin ‘yung partition. Hindi pwede ang tela kasi kumakapit ang virus doon. Papalitan natin ng acetate,” he explained.

Meanwhile, Balboa said that they are looking at ways on how to better serve the medical needs of PUIs.

“We’re also looking at some tents na pupuwede ang PUI while waiting for testing,” Balboa said.

A separate housing facility located within the complex has been designated for around 300 medical frontliners who will be stationed at the quarantine area.

Balboa clarified that the medical personnel who will man the Philippine Arena quarantine facility will not come from the hospitals, which are already operating at full capacity.

Meanwhile, Lorenzana thanked the INC leadership for the generosity it has shown in the wake of the pandemic.

“Gusto ko pong pasalamatan si Ka Eduardo Manalo for offering this facility to us. Napakaganda po nito kasi it’s a big complex; ito ay backup lang kung sakaling lumaki ang ating COVID patients, sana hindi na madagdagan (ang mga positive cases),” Lorenzana said.

The Philippine Arena quarantine facility, according to Dizon, can be used for COVID-19 patients indefinitely.

“As long as they are needed, to be decided by the IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force) and the DOH,” Dizon said. ###